Late Bronze Age. The goal of the excavation was to expose the floor of the administrative palace and the courtyard that lies to its north, and to link up to these phases from the north and the east, where previous excavations had taken place.
The walls of the administrative palace, which were preserved up to 3 m in height, were unearthed in previous seasons. Several of the palace walls were coated with a layer of light-colored mud-brick material or plaster. Most of the efforts were invested in uncovering the ‘entrance hall’ south of the courtyard. The entrance to the hall is defined by two basalt steps and a broad threshold built of limestones and coated with plaster. South of the threshold was a large, burnt wooden beam. Inside the hall were over 30 pithoi, all smashed to pieces (Fig. 2). The pithoi bases were found lying upside down (the exterior facing upward), indicating that the pithoi were stored on an upper story and fell onto the floor of the hall when the palace was destroyed and burned down. This room and the room to its south seem to have served as storerooms for the palace and its associated workshops. This may be concluded from the large quantities of raw materials found in these rooms, including hippopotamus tusks, horns, shells and basalt blocs, as well as vessels of unusually large size (e.g., giant flasks c. 1 m tall). Additional finds include about ten basalt grinding bowls, three of which had a diameter of c. 0.5 m; two identical glass objects, whose function is still unclear; and two jug handles with identical scarab seal impressions of an Egyptian king (Fig. 3).
A broad courtyard (12 × 15 m) with a pebbled floor was built north of the storerooms; it has been only partially exposed. It was accessed from both the east, via the podium complex, and the north, through an opening in the wall, which may have allowed the passage of animals. Several pits, dated to the Iron Age I, were dug into the destruction level covering the courtyard.
Three staircases were associated with the courtyard have been discovered, all of which were made of basalt slabs: the eastern staircase leads from the podium complex to the courtyard; the southern staircase leads from the courtyard to the storerooms (above); and the western, monumental, staircase leads to the rest of the palace, which is yet to be excavated. To date, seven steps (each c. 4–5 m long; Fig. 4) have been uncovered in the western staircase.
This area—a southward extension of Area M3—was excavated with the aim of uncovering the southern part of the administrative palace.
Eighth century BCE. Two stratigraphic phases were identified in 2018. The earlier phase, uncovered in the western part of the area, contains the southward extension of a room excavated in 2014 (Ben-Tor, Zuckerman and Bechar 2015). The remains in the room comprise a destruction level, which resulted from the campaign of Tiglath-pileser III in 732 BCE (Fig. 5). A number of jars, kraters, cooking pots and juglets, as well as a basalt bowl were found in this destruction level.
In the later phase, the ‘post-destruction’ phase, a meager settlement was built over the destruction level. In the center of the acropolis (Area A), this phase is characterized by large pits containing numerous pottery vessels and by stone surfaces. On the northern steps of the tell (Area M), this phase features a large courtyard with a few installations. In the 2018 season, a long, broad wall, abutted by installations and floors, was unearthed in this area. Several stone objects were associated with this phase, including a roof roller, basalt bowls and a fragment of a cosmetic bowl.
The Persian period. In the southeast corner of Area M4 a number of finds from the Persian period were unearthed, including a hoard of eight weights made of stone, bronze and Iron, with no architectural finds.
The excavation in this area was renewed after a 23-year hiatus, revealing finds from the two main phases of the Iron Age.
Tenth–ninth centuries BCE. A square room, apparently part of a larger structure, was attributed to this phase. East of the room was a paved street, apparently running parallel to the casemate wall built to the east and north of the square room (Fig. 6).
Eighth century BCE. After removal of the surface layer in the southward expansion of the excavation area, a few stone surfaces and meager walls were uncovered (Fig. 7). These were dated to the eighth century BCE and attributed to the ‘post-destruction’ phase.